December 18, 2017

Music is the sound that soothes the savage beast. For years we have heard this phrase thrown around in response to how to handle a frustrated person, animal or situation.

I am a self proclaimed music lover!

I spend a large percentage of my day listening to beautiful sounds that emanate from any speaker that I am near. I am convinced that it not only soothes me but helps untangle my cluttered monkey mind.

Whether at the office at my work station, in my car or at home, the background melody pleases my soul. Interestingly enough, my two children share this passion pleasing me further.

While that is all fine and good, what is the science behind the music soothing reality. Is there any? There must be as there is a whole field of music therapy dedicated to healing humans through music.

Dean Quick, a music therapist in NC, teaches patients how to heal psychological wounds through the art and joy of music listening. He is the stimulus behind this piece.

A study from the Journal Pediatrics in 2013 notes that NICU babies heart rates and breathing rhythms calmed and slowed when exposed to live music from a music therapist trained to match the music to the infant's rhythms. We likely did not need a study to prove this as this only seems logical where a child that is residing in an intensive care unit would be stressed by the constant drum of beeps and pings of monitors from the 30 infant's machines in the room. I still have bad memories of this annoying sound barrage during my days at the University of Virginia's NICU and I was not ill or trying to heal.

From an article by the American Psychological Association: "For example, in a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Levitin and his postgraduate research fellow, Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, found that music improves the body's immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013)."

Again, from personal experience, nothing soothes me more when I am anxious than music, therefore, the above statement resonates as truth. Why do you think that so many high performing athletes zone out with music to get in the flow state before a big game? I think of my daughter the other day. She had a headache. I put some noise canceling head phones on her to listen to some musical guided meditation. 15 minutes later and the headache had dissipated.

What is clear to me after researching this growing field is that all humans can benefit from music therapy. Whether led by a certified therapist or your iPhone depends on your need. Extensive research has shown that patients with stroke, neurodegenerative and neurobehavioral disorders can benefit from directed therapy with a specialist in music therapy. The targeting of the sound to the disease is an art form. Just like having a master to teach you karate, a master music therapist will maximize your end results.

For the every day anxiety, stress and general life, I recommend a good pair of noise canceling head phones to keep the volume low and your favorite soul inspiring tunes. You can also lay next your dog, cat or goat and listen to their heartbeat and breathing and get synchronous with them. I guarantee that you will calm the savage beast inside you.

A few favorite songs that soothe me:

My immortal by Evanescence
The Brandenburg Concerto #1 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orinoco Flow by Enya
Stairway to Heaven by Anne and Nancy Wilson
Breathe Me In by Candlebox
Angel Flight by Darden Smith
Thank You by Led Zeppelin
The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd
Cold Water by Damien Rice
Precious Things by Tori Amos


Listen and heal,

Dr. Magryta

Music Therapy Article
Music Therapy APA
Pediatrics Article
Harvard Medical School Article